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Paired-Donor Kidney Transplant

Many people who need a kidney transplant discover they have a friend or family member willing to donate a kidney. Unfortunately, blood and tissue testing may show that the potential kidney donor isn’t a suitable match for the person they’d like to help. 

When this happens, the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center explores multiple paired-kidney exchanges to match more transplant recipients with living kidney donors.

Paired-Donor Kidney Transplant: What You Need to Know

If you have a willing donor who is not a match for you, a kidney exchange program can increase your chances (and potentially decrease your wait) for a transplant. 

  • How does kidney exchange work? In a kidney exchange, as in other living kidney donor transplants, a donor gives a kidney and a patient receives a transplant. The only difference is that the donor gives to a different person than he or she may have originally expected to donate, and their intended recipient receives a living kidney from a different donor that has been matched with them.
  • When is a paired-kidney exchange possible? When a patient seeking a kidney transplant finds an interested living kidney donor, we perform testing to evaluate the donor’s health, blood type and tissue type. Sometimes, they are healthy enough to donate, but their blood or tissue type is not a good match for the intended recipient. That’s where paired-kidney exchanges can help. When a living donor is compatible but the match is not great, living donor and recipient pairs have the option of participating in a paired exchange that will afford a better match for the recipient.
  • What are the main benefits of kidney exchange? When patients get matched through paired-kidney exchange, they benefit from:
    • Greater organ availability, possibly decreasing their wait time for a kidney transplant
    • Improved transplant outcomes, as living donor kidneys typically work faster and last almost twice as long
    • A shorter hospital stay, with less risk of complications compared to deceased donor transplant
    • A planned surgery based on your date and time preference, rather than a call in the middle of the night. 

Our Innovative Approach to Paired-Donor Kidney Transplant

Our Transplant Center works with multiple kidney exchange programs to pair living kidney donors with patients from all around the country. This thorough approach leads to more kidney transplant surgeries and more kidney donation opportunities. Participating programs include:

  • National paired-kidney exchange programs: We use multiple national paired-kidney exchange programs, which include potential donors and recipients from across the country. When a transplant patient doesn’t match their intended donor, we use these programs to search for compatible matches.
  • Internal paired-kidney exchange program: Our Transplant Center has also developed an internal paired-kidney exchange program, where we enter our unmatched or matched donors and recipients into an internal database. This approach allows us to:
    • Make more donor-recipient connections among our own patients
    • Avoid having to transport a kidney from another center, which leads to improved kidney function after transplant

Provide an opportunity to find a better-matched donor than the one intending to donate to you.

Contact Us

For more information about the kidney transplant program at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, call 855.925.0631.